More than 100 youths, who had gone to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) for arms training during the last two decades, have quietly returned home following the announcement of rehabilitation policy for them by the Jammu and Kashmir government.
According to a senior intelligence official, over 100 youths have returned to their homes since the rehabilitation policy was announced by the Omar Abdullah-led coalition government in November 2010, which was also approved by the Centre.
The official said around 1300 youths, through various channels, had expressed their desire to shun the path of violence and return to Kashmir in order to lead a normal life.
Out of these, 109 youths have come home from different routes and the officials did not want to divulge any details as their return has been kept a low profile affair in view of threat perception to their lives.
However, well-placed sources said the most preferred route taken by the youths to return home was via Nepal.
"They fly to Nepal on a Pakistani passport and then travel as Indian citizens back home as Indians need not carry passport for travel to and fro Nepal," the sources said.
They said some of the youth have also come back from the same route they had used to cross over the Line of Control (LoC) to PoK.
Upon their return, it has been made mandatory for these former militants to report to the nearest police station so that due course of law is followed, officials said.
"These men have to face the court of law and the state will take a sympathetic view to their cases as part of the rehabilitation policy. Even the stone-pelters against whom the cases are being dropped have to face the courts," the officials said.
Most of these youths have a common story to tell. They have told the police about second class treatment meted out to them at the training camps, the indoctrination and brainwashing carried out by the militant handlers there and using marriage as a means of escape.
Many of the youths, who have returned home, have come with a wife from Pakistan or PoK. In some cases, they have come back with children as well, the officials said.
Ruling National Conference spokesman Tanvir Sadiq said the rehabilitation policy was "philanthropic" and it has started paying dividends.
Sadiq said the rehabilitation policy of the government is not only a humanitarian step but also a move towards giving the youths a chance to restart their lives with their loved ones.
"The Chief MInister with the help of the Centre has done something that no one could ever dream of. This step is not only commendable but is also a step towards peace and harmony," he said.
The spokesman said, "Our neighbour (Pakistan) should also reciprocate generously".
"This policy is a reflection of the Kashmiriyat where everyone co-exists in peace and harmony. It is legitimate to give a chance to everyone to correct his mistakes," he added.